Thoughts race through your mind as you hear yet another person’s success story of how they got through something difficult or how they skipped the circumstances that you are going through all together. You wonder, “That’s great for them. But what about my story? How’s my story going to turn out?” You may fret and hyperventilate a little or a lot as you go through all the possible outcomes of your open-ended story. You try to carry on as normally as you can, but it’s near impossible because nothing seems like it will ever fit under the “normal” category again. You just want resolution. You just want to know. You just want things to be better. You just want to have an answer to all your questions and the ones that everyone else asks you as well.
But then something about your unresolved story strikes you in a remarkable manner: you’re in the middle of your story. You don’t know how things are going to turn out. You’ve got fears and worries. But a call louder than those dreadful story blotters is sounding from the pages of the tale you are living: hope. It’s hope that even though you’re in some of the driest, darkest, scariest, most uncertain lines of your life’s pages, there is good news of resolution to come with replacements of water for your thirst, light for your path, peace, and certainty that the best is yet to come.
Recently, I received wise counsel pointing me back to the Word of God in efforts to help me take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. As prayers were being poured out to the Lord over me, the sacredness of scripture covered my anxious heart,
“…and Lord, help Emily to know that no good thing will you withhold from those who walk uprightly before you…”
No good thing. God won’t withhold the good thing that He has intended to give me if I am honoring Him with my life by walking on His path, not my own.
What is that good thing? Is it what I want? Is it something other than what I want?
I have no idea.
I have hope. And I have confidence of whatever good thing is intended for my life because of the One I trust strengthens me to walk uprightly before Him.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
The Spirit of God has had me meditating on the passage, which was prayed over me recently. I wanted to know more about the context, so I did some researching. The scriptures leading up to the “No good thing does He withhold…” part paint the richest picture of what it often means to be in the middle of your story.
I had never heard of the Valley of Baca before studying this passage. But according to Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, “The word “Baca” (בכא bâkâ’) means properly weeping, lamentation; and then it is given to a certain tree…some species of balsam – from its weeping; that is, because it seemed to distil tears, or drops of balsam resembling tears in size and appearance… The true rendering is, “valley of lamentation,” or weeping; and it may have reference to some lonely valley in Palestine – where there was no water – a gloomy way – through which those commonly passed who went up to the place of worship… It may, however, be used as emblematic of human life – “a vale of tears;” and the passage may be employed as an illustration of the effect of religion in diffusing happiness and comfort where there was trouble and sorrow – as if fountains should be made to flow in a sterile and desolate valley. Make it a well – Or, a fountain. That is, It becomes to the pilgrims as a sacred fountain. They “make” such a gloomy valley like a fountain, or like a road where fountains – full, free, refreshing – break forth everywhere to invigorate the traveler.”
The author of these verses was yearning to be closer to the Lord. On his pilgrimage to worship, he passed through some of the driest, most desolate, scariest lands. The journey to praise the One True King was not easy. It was utterly difficult and marked by many tears and strikings of pain. But the land’s name? It was significant. The root of the word “Baca” has to do with weeping…but not just human weeping…the weeping of trees. The lonely, frightening journey through this valley ended up walking by a planting of life that testifies to the redemption of tears. There’s not much that grows in dry places. But these balsam trees did. And for something that clearly should be dying in such barren conditions, these trees testified through tears…drops of water-filled life…that they were still standing, miraculously. For every pool of water and stream that appeared in the desert, those passing through en route to the Holy City were offered hope of the good thing that was set aside for them.
There’s a great lesson to be learned from this passage. The power to get to the place of worship, to experience the good thing(s) that God has for us, and to make it through the hardest, driest, most terrifying journeys escapes us. We don’t receive a blessing for our own strength. No, we receive it from drawing from the strength of the Living Lord.
When we tap into the blessing of His strength, the journey that we have been so unsure of knowing how traverse becomes navigated by His maps. And He has already charted the course. We don’t have to get our pens out to plot our steps. We only have a general idea of the destination and no innate knowledge of how to survive the journey. We don’t have to figure out how our story will end up. We don’t have to compare our maps to others’. We just have to surrender our compass to the One whose city we are yearning for, and He will establish the route and provisions for getting there. He writes the course on our surrendered hearts that guides us to worship Him.
Just like those Balsams for which the Valley of Baca received its name, our own tears in our own valleys have the capability of reminding us of the unusual ability the Lord has to bring us life, hope, and companionship in the midst of our barren wastelands. I happen to be inclined to think that often He filters our tears into pools and streams of relief as He collects them and refreshes us with the truth that He hasn’t brought us to the wasteland to abandon us, but to put our trust in Him.
And as we draw from Christ’s strength, He moves us from a place of worry to a place of worship. We begin to soberly realize that according to all other stats, our story “should” just end in the barren desert valley. After all, deserts are known for rotting carcasses and dried up bones, are they not? But because of the waters of life God brings us in the middle of our stories, we can look forward to the “good” things…the rest of our stories. He quenches our thirst with waters uncommon to the wasteland… miraculous, rejuvenating waters. He gives us the strength we need to follow the highways He has written on our hearts, edging us nearer and nearer to worshipping Him with complete abandon, as close to Him as we can possibly get. The dusty wilderness turns into a territory marked by the waters that have been visited for encouragement, fellowship, and sustainment of life, rather than a death sentence.
We’re all in the middle of our stories right now. But some of us are living some very arid, dry, uncertain chapters. I know the frightened, curious question of, “But what about my story?” I know the tears that bleed from the journey. But I know the life that comes from the refreshing waters in the desert and the map that has been written on my heart to lead me to a place of worship toward The Most High God. Sometimes, I wander through the dry valleys thirstier than others because I draw from my own strength and cry myself dry. But when my trust is fixed upon Christ, I find a source to drink from that assures me He is navigating me through these pages and onto the good things…things I have not seen or heard or even imagined…the good things that He’s not holding back from me. And with each thirst-quenching sip, my tears turn into testimonies of the power of the Living Water, allowing me to stand and walk confidently through the wasteland to the place of worship.
My story? How’s it going to turn out? I don’t know. I’m in the middle of it. The good things? I don’t know what they are. But I know they’re in the place of worship born out of the waters of life I’m tasting in the wilderness.